WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) – The Child Care Relief Fund is coming to an end, putting child care availability and affordability in jeopardy without state investment.
Child Care Providers proposed a bill yesterday, Mar. 14, 2023, to Texas legislators at the capitol for a short-term solution.
Texas now has less than 27% of operating child care centers than they did in March 2020.
Keri Goins, the Executive Director of Child Care Partners, said with House Bill 423, fighting for an increase of higher wages is a step in the right direction.
With some centers down to their last paycheck provided by the Child Care Relief Fund, Goins said without continued government funding, 44% of childcare programs are likely or maybe likely to close within the next year.
“Across most of the U.S., most states put money toward early education and child care. Texas only puts enough money to draw down the federal government funds, through the early education, for the childhood development block grant. They only do what they have to do. We really need more investment from the state government, to make this all sustainable,” Goins said.
The average hourly wage for childcare educators is $12 an hour with no benefits. 72% of child abuse cases in Wichita County last year were the result of neglectful supervision. By not compensating workers, the cost of child care will rise and could result in parents not being able to work or afford care, industries could see a loss of workers, school district’s test scores will continue to be low, and there could be an increase of neglectful supervision across the state.
“I can’t compete with Taco Bell right now, and quite frankly, our teachers are doing amazing things. They are making sure children are where they need to be. They are keeping them safe. I’m always telling our teachers ‘I see you, I know what you do matters, and you’re teachers, too.'”
The executive director of the “Texas Association for the Education of Young Children,” Cody Summerville, is hoping for the government to invest more than $2 billion.
“Investing $2.3 billion sounds like quite a bit of money, but it’s actually 1% of the state’s budget, so it’s pretty small in the grand scheme of things, but the impact of that will have to fuel our entire economy, and the workforce with every industry, really will pay dividends over decades to come,” Summerville said.
Summerville said this bill impacts every Texan.
“We all rely on child care, regardless if we have children or not. We all rely on the teller at the bank who’s a mom of twins. We all rely on the surgeon at the hospital who has a one-year-old and a four-year-old at home, and if that bank teller and that surgeon isn’t able to show up for work, it’s going to make it harder for every Texan who receive the services that they rely on,” Summerville said.
Summerville said half of the $2.3 billion will go toward foundational funding for child care programs, and the other half to increasing teacher compensation.
Goins said House Bill 423 also advocates for studies to be done on why there is such an imbalance of their funding versus the services they provide.